Friday, July 29, 2011

Vigil for Carlos: Border Patrol Orders Removal of Memorial for Slain Teenager (video)

Three months after shooting Carlos LaMadrid in the back, the US Border Patrol ordered the removal of the slain teenager's memorial at the Douglas, Arizona border. PDA Southern Arizona activist Alison McLeod made this powerful video at the vigil to keep Carlos's memorial at the border fence where he died.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 30: Demonstrate Your Support for Medicare

Medicare is the Solution… Not the Problem!

Come help celebrate Medicare's 46th birthday by demonstrating your support. Join PDA Tucson for this important event.

WHEN: Saturday July 30
WHERE: NE Corner of Speedway and Campbell in Tucson
TIME: 10 am to noon

Medicare is a the nation’s most popular social program. It has been working to provide those 65 and over, those with disabilities and certain medical conditions, with access to comprehensive healthcare without fear of bankruptcy.

Despite years of success, opponents to making healthcare a public good are seeking to privatize and cut Medicare, along with Medicaid and Social Security. In fact, these three social safety net programs have become political targets during the current battle over the nation's debt and deficit.

We need you to join us and stand up for the right to healthcare.

Bring hat, water, signs, and your feelings about Medicare.

Thanks to Ann Rose Dichov, Co-Coordinator of PDAs Medicare for All Issue Organizing Team for organizing this action.

Check out this event on facebook.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

MoveOn Urges Members to Take the Debt Ceiling Battle to the Streets and to Congressional Offices is calling on us-- all of us-- to visit our Congressional representatives' offices today, July 26, at noon and tell them to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Don't let extremist Teapublicans destroy our economy and our country's social safety net-- as they play chicken with President Obama and the world financial markets over raising the debt ceiling. (If you know anyone who lives in John Boehner's Ohio district, forward it to him.)

From Move On...

This weekend, it became 100% clear that Republicans would rather see America default, Social Security checks stop going out, the stock market plummet, and unemployment soar than give one inch on their position: that the very richest people and most profitable corporations shouldn't pay one penny more in taxes.

Even after the president offered Republicans a debt-ceiling deal most MoveOn members probably consider unconscionable—with trillions in cuts, even to Medicare and Social Security—speaker Boehner still walked away from the table.

Republicans hope the threat of default will be enough to force Democrats to sacrifice and compromise even more.

But Democrats like Raul Grijalva are standing strong. Rep. Grijalva is one of 80 Democrats who have joined Leader Pelosi in saying that cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits are off the table. Over the next few days, Rep. Grijalva will face extreme pressure to cave into every Republican demand and let irresponsible threats drive terrible decisions in Washington.

That's why, with other leaders of the American Dream movement, we're putting out an urgent call for every patriotic American to show up outside progressive congressional offices on Tuesday at noon to deliver a crucial message of support: "Thank you for protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Keep standing strong."

Can you deliver the message to Rep. Grijalva at his office on Tuesday at noon?

Yes, I can drop by on Tuesday!

We'll follow up with all the details and a link to print your own "Keep standing strong" signs to bring to Rep. Grijalva.

Then you just have to show up on Tuesday here:

738 North 5th Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85705

We need to show as much public support as possible, so please pass this along to anyone else you know who could join in on Tuesday. This is a moment when we need to bring the progressive movement together to show our strength and show our boldest leaders that we're with them. 
Let's get out there on Tuesday and let leaders like Rep. Grijalva know how important it is to keep standing up to Republican threats. We can't let Republicans crash the American economy to protect tax giveaways for the rich.

As someone who lives in CD8-- Gabrielle Giffords' district-- I received a different version of this MoveOn letter urging CD8 residents to go to her office (3945 E. Fort Lowell Road, Suite 211) to encourage her to support the position that Pelosi and Grijalva have taken. I don't know how many people will show up at Giffords' office, but I think it's a good idea because it emphasizes that CD8 residents need to have a dog in this fight.

Raising the debit ceiling and reducing the deficit by cutting corporate subsidies and tax loopholes for the rich-- while protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid-- are crucial issues. If you can't go to your Congressional representative's office today in person, contact them. Here is their contact information: Raul and Gabby.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Public/Private Banking for Community Investment, Bank of North Dakota, and More

Through a happy set of conincidences and really good teamwork (thank you, Rick Graap!), we are set for a superb IOT meeting. This meeting will take palce on Saturday, Aug. 6, from 10 - 12 AM, at the Ward 1 City Council Office located at 940 W. Alameda (roughly Alameda and Grande).
Our letter to the editor of the Tucson Weekly has been very well received. One of our suggestions was the formation of a public/private investment bank to help launch microenterprises, new ventures, and to offer training and upgrading for Tucsonans. Certainly we can agree that obtaining resources for everyone to move forward must be a high priority.
As it turns out, Rick Graap has been exploring this idea with Sam Stone, who has a high level of interest in the topic as well as a substantial business background. Sam will be joining us at the next meeting.
Rick and Sam have looked at the current situation in the community as well as many of our needs. But they have also turned to the Bank of North Dakota which is the only state-run bank in the United States. The BND opened in 1919 as a way to help farmers deal with the financial risks and uncertainties attendant to their operations. The BND has been a great success and has obviously grown in assets and scope. One fact that we should note is that the BND did alleviate misery and stabilize conditions in North Dakota during the Great Depression.
If you would like to learn more about the BND, you may wish to visit its website at
We will also be discussing how this kind of enterprise differs from a credit union and a community bank.
Please note that I have had very positive fedback about the suggestions in the TW letter. I am placing this matter on our agenda because it is the only concrete development I have received. Additionally, I'd like to discuss Marty's suggestions and certainly hear from everyone else about specific directions and projects. This discussion will be an important one, but it shoiuld not preclude any other ideas.
My family will be on holiday until Aug. 1 or 2. I shall be away from all electronic communication devices at that time. Nevertheless, please feel free to contact me, and I shall get back to you as soon as possible after my return.
I look forward to heaqring from you and to seeing you on August 6th!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Grijalva Calls Out Republican Intransigence in Debt Ceiling Debate

CD7 Congressman Raul Grijalva called out Republicans for grandstanding and holding the country's economic future hostage-- as they cling tightly to their extreme ideology.

PDA Tucson Activists Urge Politicians to Address Problem of Local Poverty

"Off the Charts Poor"-- a recent feature in the Tucson Weekly-- presented some sobering statistics about poverty in Pima County and in Tucson in particular and sparked local activism.

From the Weekly...

If poverty were a disease, Pima County officials would have declared an epidemic by now.

In the past few years, local poverty has literally gone off of a chart compiled by the Pima Association of Governments. Yet elected officials, other local leaders and the media do not appear interested in the fact that Tucson recently eclipsed El Paso as the poorest major city in the Sunbelt.

The epidemic of poverty doesn't seem to be a priority for either city or county government. We often hear about the proposed Rosemont Mine and the Rio Nuevo redevelopment district, but rarely do officials talk about the fact that 200,000 Pima County residents, or one in five, get by (or try to get by) on incomes below the federal poverty rate. For an individual, that translates to less than $10,890 annually, and $22,350 for a family of four.

Whether the increase in poverty is the result of a lack of job-training, reduced education funding, or something else, there is little discussion about trying to change the harsh reality that almost one in every four Tucson residents is currently living below the poverty line.

If a healthy economy is about a community's collective capacity for productivity, how can Pima County prosper when so many of us are suffering from the debilitating social conditions imposed by poverty?...

Inside the city limits, the percentage of people living below the federal poverty level went from 18 percent in 1995 to 23.4 percent in 2009 (the latest year for which figures are available). That's an increase of almost one-third.

In Pima County, things were was only a little better: The county rate went from 16.9 to 19.3 percent, an increase of 14 percent. As a result, Pima County today is one of the poorest urban areas in the Southwest. [Emphasis added.]
The Weekly article sparked a round of letter writing and activism among PDA Tucson members-- particularly among the members of the Economic and Social Justice Issue Organizing Team (IOT). Why are local politicians not addressing this situation? During every election, we hear about job creation, but Tucson continues to slide backwards, according to the Weekly article. Here are there letters that PDA members wrote to bring awareness to this wide-spread economic problem.

Economic and Social Justice IOT writes to the Tucson Weekly with 'Business Friendly' suggestions to address local poverty

The Tucson chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America applauds the article “Off the Charts Poor” as it beautifully documents the result of a generation of political policies on our community. It is true that Tucson depends on tourism, retirees, and students to bring money into the community, and it is also true that our economy is not diverse and that our education system needs improvement.

Our community desperately needs jobs which will let people live well and encourage our children and our graduates to stay and make their stands here. We can do better than attracting another call center.

Lately, we have heard much said about creating a business-friendly environment. We differ with the usual and customary definition of that term. Instead of slashing taxes and granting incentives, it is time to explore different types of projects. Although we understand that many different organizations are working in these areas, we feel that we would like to bring these points to the attention of the Tucson community in order to stimulate discussion and eventually action.

Here are some ways to make Tucson more “business friendly”:
• Establish a meaningful way to fund public education guaranteeing not only basic skills acquisition for all but also vocational education geared toward new and emerging fields
• Strengthen the offerings and the modalities of Adult Basic Education
• Require workforce development providers hire highly qualified faculty, utilize student-oriented learning systems, and develop curricula and on-the-job-training experiences that lead in meaningful directions
• Ask educational providers to develop new curricula leading to national credentials
• Work with unions to develop and enhance training experiences
• Develop a community investment bank with funds from local public and private sources to strengthen the economy and the prospects of our residents
• Utilize private funding to create a program to launch micro-enterprises
• Create high quality and affordable childcare facilities so parents can work with confidence that their young are nourished
• Solicit donations of computer equipment so that a network of “computer shacks” can be opened around the county offering not only training but safe recreational experiences for our residents.
• Require that all work receive meaningful compensation so that a person can live in this community with dignity
• Enhance protections for workers in regard to compensation, working conditions, safety, and health
• Pass a progressive rent reduction ordinance to stimulate small and large business start-ups as well as the development of not-for-profits. In other words, if a rental space is not let in a specific time frame, say 3 months, the asking price of the rental will be lowered by a specified factor, perhaps 15%. Further reductions would happen at specific intervals and at specific levels.
• Improve air service in order to move people and materials in and out of Tucson more efficiently as well as to and from more destinations. This capacity will only make Tucson more attractive for job development.

The Tucson PDA has recently started an Issue Organizing Team (IOT) for Economic and Social Justice. This IOT is to be an action-oriented team with the goal of making the economy in Tucson and around the country work for the benefit of everyone, not just the already rich.

We are grateful for the legwork provided in the Tucson Weekly’s article as well as for the opportunity to comment. We hope that our proposals catalyze both thought and growth. Please join us in coming up with ideas and turning them into actions. You can contact us at and follow our blog at

Richard L. M. Brodesky
Coordinator, Economic and Social Justice
Issues Organizing Team,
Tucson Chapter
Progressive Democrats of America
July 1, 2011

Economic and Social Justice IOT member lauds Tucson Weekly for expose on local poverty

Thank you for publishing the thoughtful and well researched article, “Off the Charts Poor” (June 23-29). It is disgraceful that Tucson and Pima County have become the center of greatest poverty in the Sunbelt. This article does an excellent job of revealing the increasing impoverishment over the last few decades. Water is wet and poor people don’t make enough money. As read, I was reminded of two movements which sought to change this situation and were thwarted by the Tucson and Arizona Chambers of Commerce in alliance with the Republican Party.

The first was the 1997 city initiative to establish a $7 minimum wage. The Chamber and local business interests spent an estimated $1 million to defeat the initiative. They made the claim that it would cause massive layoffs as businesses were unable to meet such excessively high payrolls. To insure that this effort would not revisit Tucson or other Arizona cities, that same year the Arizona Chamber of Commerce lobbied the State Legislature to prohibit Arizona cities from establishing a minimum wage. This statute remains on the books today.

The second movement in this regard was the “Living Wage” ordinance adopted by the City Council in Sept. of 2000. That ordinance would have required businesses contracting with the City to pay their workers a minimum of $8 per hour; $9 for firms which do not provide health insurance. The State Legislature once again moved to pre-empt the City by passing legislation to prohibit cities from establishing such requirements. Ron Stuht, lobbyist for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce complained that “(Tucson’s living wage ordinance) is like a virus” which was going to occur “again and again.” (Arizona Daily Star Jan. 26, 2000).

The issue of poverty is that of wage suppression. Workers who are not organized into unions are completely at the mercy of businesses who want to pay the lowest wage they possibly can. These business interests have the money to see that they gerrymander State Legislative Districts and elect Republican politicians who insure that Arizona workers remain impoverished. Efforts of the Arizona AFL-CIO to bring wage bargaining power to Arizona workers are hampered by the “Right to Work” law and other legislation such at the two cited above.

What these business interests seem to fail to understand is that their efforts ultimately restrain their own growth. The flip side of wages is consumer demand. Workers with little disposable income have no money to buy the products and services created by business. Sales are slack and economic stagnation is the result.

Working hand in glove with wage suppression is legislation to insure that business profits and incomes are as free from taxation as possible. Since 1995 the State has reduced income taxes by 30% and still the Republican shills for business demand more cuts. A huge number of commodities and services are completely exempt from State and local sales and other taxes. Government services starved for revenue cannot provide the physical and organizational infrastructure to create an environment for diverse economic growth. The Arizona State Legislature, bent upon eliminating government services altogether also insures that there is little in the way of stable high wage government jobs; again reducing consumer demand.

This article also bemoans the lack of a workforce which has the skills to be productive in the workplace. Yet we see a State Legislature starving public education from preschool through the post graduate level. With the State universities now charging more than $10,000 per year in tuition and fees, it is likely we will see declining enrollment. How will this meet the need to produce more highly skilled and educated workers?

Cited in the article was Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities board member and Vice President of Northern Trust Wealth Strategies Vice President Frances McLane Merryman. It is a widely held maxim within our small business community that banks are unwilling to lend money unless you don’t need it. Without sufficient investment capital, business has no means to finance expansion or to survive cyclical recessions. Is it likely that with such members, TREO will ever recognize that wage suppression, low business and income taxation and scarcity of investment capital are the primary culprits of our economic malaise?

Arizona and Pima County in particular are in the throes of extremely unbalanced class forces. Until that is reversed, first and foremost by eliminating all constraints to labor organizing, Tucson is going to continue its deplorable slide into dubious distinctions such as the most impoverished city in the Southwest.

Jim Hannley
President, El Rio Neighborhood Assiciation
June 28, 2011

PDA Tucson's Phil Lopes writes to the Arizona Daily Star about job creation and budget cutting

Dear Editor,

A report just released from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows Arizona’s growth from 2009 to 2010 was only 0.7 percent, worse than any other state except for Nevada and Wyoming. The report also shows that in the past ten years the per capita GDP in Arizona has only increased 3 percent compared to the national average of 6.7 percent.

Clearly, cutting taxes and spending simply destroys the state and the country’s ability to be productive and create jobs.

Hopefully the "budget cutters" in Congress will learn from the example of Arizona that only cutting spending will not “grow” an economy.

Phil Lopes
Former State Representative, LD 27
July 5, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Swing state voters say: Tax the rich to bring down the deficit

Although right-wing presenters at a recent Congressional deficit reduction town hall in Tucson downplayed taxing the rich and eliminating corporate loopholes as strategies to reduce the federal deficit, taxing the rich is a popular idea with the rest of us.

From the Huffington Post...

Poll data by the Democratic-aligned Public Policy Polling released Wednesday said voters in Ohio, Missouri, Montana and Minnesota back hiking taxes on the wealthy -- even for people with incomes as low as $150,000.

The respondents were asked: "In order to reduce the national debt, would you support or oppose raising taxes on those with incomes over $1,000,000 a year?"

Nearly 80 percent of voters in the four states backed the idea.

This new statistic shouldn't be all that surprising, really. At the end of 2010, before Congress and the President caved and extended all Bush era tax cuts, many progressives-- like radio and TV commentator Ed Schultz-- were pleading with President Obama not to extend the cuts on the wealthy because most American's didn't agree with the strategy. Schultz strongly urged the President to hang tough and refuse to pass any cuts if  Congressional Republicans insisted on extending cuts for the wealthy.

Well, we all know what happened back in December 2010. All Congressional Republicans, enough Democrats, and the President pretended as if the US had no debt or deficit problem and extended all tax cuts for 2012. Now Republicans want to cut, cut, cut the 14 percent of the budget that is non-military, discretionary spending, while continuing to defend subsidies for Big Oil and tax cuts for the rich.

Progressives need to stand tough on this issue and defend Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social safety net programs, while pushing for universal healthcare, an end to the wars, and elimination of tax cuts for the rich and subsidies for corporations that are making record profits.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Giffords' Deficit Reduction 'Town Hall' Features Right-Wing Talking Heads: PDA Activists Provide Reality Check (video)

On Thursday, June 30, 2011, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' staff sponsored a deficit reduction town hall which featured data-filled slide presentations by David Walker of the Comeback America Initiative and Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition.

Fearing a one-sided, right-wing love fest, several activists from Progressive Democrats of American Tucson Chapter attended the event to distribute literature on the People's Budget and hold up "Healthcare, Not Warfare" and "Heal America, Tax Wall Street" signs during the meeting. Unfortunately, there was a sign on the meeting room door barring signs in the meeting (see photo above), but PDA volunteers greeted and distributed dozens of "Healthcare, Not Warfare" stickers and People's Budget information to attendees.

Two PDA activists-- Alison McLeod and Pamela Powers-- also shot video of the event. The Powers video (above) provides an overview of the event and highlights the disinformation, revisionist history, and right-wing talking points offered by the speakers. The McLeod video (below) specifically addresses the suppression of free speech by Giffords' staffers.